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Study: Early European hunter-gatherers got pigs from farming neighbors

Aug. 27, 2013 at 4:13 PM   |   Comments

DURHAM, England, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Scientists say new evidence shows Northern European hunter-gatherers acquired domesticated pigs from nearby farming communities as early as 4600 B.C.

The evidence strongly suggests interaction between the hunter-gatherer and farming communities and a "sharing" of animals and knowledge, a study by European researchers found.

The interchange of domesticated animals is one example of a complex interplay between indigenous Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and incoming Neolithic farmers, they said.

"Mesolithic hunter-gatherers definitely had dogs, but they did not practice agriculture and did not have pigs, sheep, goats, or cows, all of which were introduced to Europe with incoming farmers about 6000 B.C.," lead study author Ben Krause-Kyora of Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany, said. "Having people who practiced a very different survival strategy nearby must have been odd, and we know now that the hunter-gathers possessed some of the farmers' domesticated pigs."

Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers their analysis of ancient DNA from the bones and teeth of 63 pigs from Northern Germany, which showed the hunter-gatherers acquired domestic pigs.

"Humans love novelty, and though hunter-gatherers exploited wild boar, it would have been hard not to be fascinated by the strange-looking spotted pigs owned by farmers living nearby," Greger Larson of Britain's Durham University said. "It should come as no surprise that the hunter-gatherers acquired some eventually, but this study shows that they did very soon after the domestic pigs arrived in northern Europe."

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